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posted: 3/15/2013 3:55 AM

Make your shower head sparkle with these easy tips

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When you turn on your shower, does the water hit you or the surrounding walls? It's common that minerals can settle in the small holes of the average shower head, and this can cause it to spray, well, all over the place.

Although you can replace your shower head, it's a lot cheaper and not that hard to just clean it. Here's how.

First of all, wrap the shower head and water pipe with tape or a soft cloth so that when you grab it with a wrench, it won't scratch the surface. Hold the water pipe, coming from the shower wall, while turning the shower head, with another wrench, counterclockwise. Unscrew it all the way and remove it. If you have trouble removing the shower head, we'll tell you how to take care of that as well.

Set it in a bowl of warm vinegar for about 30 minutes. That's usually all it will take to dissolve the mineral deposits inside the shower head.

Apply Teflon tape to the threads of the water pipe before reinstalling the shower head. It should work great now.

If you can't remove the shower head, you still can get rid of the mineral deposits with vinegar. Find a plastic bag that is large enough to enclose the shower head. Fill it with vinegar and tie it to the water pipe. Let the shower head soak in the bag of vinegar for 30 minutes. This will do the same thing, and without having to remove the shower head.

If cleaning the head doesn't resolve all of the issues, then you may end up having to replace it. Just make sure that you follow the precautions above to protect your pipe finishes, and use Teflon tape for the best seal. This also protects the pipe threads to make it easier to remove the head for regular maintenance later on.

Keep these tips in mind for other household faucets and sprayers to keep the water flowing smoothly around your home.

Versatile sawhorses

Sawhorses are great for supporting a wide variety of materials when working on your projects. The newer models have some upgrades worth mentioning, like a system of clamping the material in place while it sets on the sawhorse. If you have an old-fashioned, wooden sawhorse, you can drill a couple of holes into the top to stick dowels in to do the same thing. An added wedge, placed between the material and the dowel, will give you an even tighter fit and will hold the material in place as you work. Either way, you'll like the added stability as you work.

Wire racks for storage

Those plastic-covered wire racks made to fit on doors to hold food, shoes and other items can be super helpful for garage storage and organization, too. If the type you find is made to fit over a door, you can cut off that top part with some heavy-duty snips or a hacksaw. Attach these to your shop or garage wall with screws or nails. They will be great for storage, and most are low-profile and thin, so they won't take up much room or get in the way of your cars. The open-wire system also makes it easy to hold things on the racks with hooks or cable ties.

Super hints

• When you first hang a vinyl shower curtain, it's going to have creases in it. Hopefully they will straighten out soon. But if you are in a hurry, blow them out with your hair dryer. This will act like an iron to remove those creases.

• Grease spots are hard to remove, especially when they are on a wall. The best approach is to use an absorbent material like cornstarch, but using it on a wall can be a challenge. Wrap a handful of it in a scrap of pantyhose, and then rub the grease spot on the wall with this. Enough of the cornstarch will be exposed to help absorb the grease.

• When you work hard, you can end up with stinky hands. Clean them with a little toothpaste, and it will not only scrub them clean, but get rid of some of the worst smells you can get into.

Q: I would like to install new vinyl flooring in my bathroom but would rather try to put it down over the old stuff. Is that acceptable? Do I need to do anything else?

A: You need to make sure you have no debris on top of the old flooring. Even a tiny piece of dirt will show up in the new covering. The old flooring needs to be as smooth as possible. It might be advisable to put a layer of floor-leveling compound, a spreadable material, over the old flooring. Then just make sure you glue it down really well. Good luck. We hope it turns out great!

Q: I priced a new kitchen sink, but have decided to try to live with mine a little longer. It's white porcelain and has two chips in the surface I would like to repair. How do you do this?

A: Look on your sink for the name of the manufacturer. Then go to your hardware store and find the correct touch-up kit. You will be surprised at how many different shades of "white" there are. Basically, you apply several thin coats of porcelain paint to cover the chips. Most of the time, this stuff works pretty well and rarely chips back off. Good luck.

Q: My kitchen counters are the older plastic laminate. They look fine except for the two seams where the pieces are joined together. They are splitting apart and collect a lot of dirt. How can we seal them back up?

A: Check with laminate dealers for seam sealer. It's fairly easy to install. Cleaning the area first is the most important part of the process. Make sure it's perfectly dry after cleaning it before applying the sealer. Take care of the problem soon -- the longer you wait, the worse it will get.

Reader tips

• I decided to paint our patio furniture a different color. I wanted it all to match, so I chose to paint some of it the same color as the rest. I bought the paint and everything I needed, but then I found some rust on one of the large chairs. I scrubbed and scrubbed and even got out the steel wool, but I needed some sort of remover that I didn't have. I tried straight vinegar with the steel wool, and it really got the rust off. I knew it was acidic but didn't realize how strong it really was. The rust is gone, the paint is on and the furniture looks new.

• We bought mini blinds when we got into our home, and just never put up anything else. I like them, but I've never liked the fact that they are too long for our windows. I finally decided to follow the directions and customize them to fit. I removed the plugs at the bottom of each blind, removed the bottom section and took out several of the slats. Then I put the bottom piece back on and tied the cords to fit, replaced the plugs, and now I have custom blinds in my home. What a difference it has made. Plus I find I use them more often now that they actually fit the windows.

• I created a cedar closet to store our off-season coats in. I had to paint it after doing some plumbing work in an adjacent bathroom. I put cedar oil into the paint before putting it up. It's been a whole year, and you still can smell the cedar scent. I'm not sure it has helped, but my wife thinks it has, and she's the expert in our home.

• You have to try this. I cleaned my glass shower doors with a dryer sheet. It not only scrubbed them clean, it even got the spots off the doors. These spots almost always are there, and I thought they were impossible to remove. This really worked well, and I just had to share it with you. Please pass it on to the rest of the world!

• We keep the curtains closed in our bathroom because we have a neighbor, with a window facing us, about 4 feet away. The problem is the curtains don't want to stay closed all the time. I glued small magnets to the inside of each side, and the magnets hold the drapes closed. Finally, something that works!


• If you have done a good job of weatherproofing your home, it will be sealed up tightly. This will save energy but may, in some cases, create a mildew problem. Mildew not only looks and smells bad, but it can ruin walls, carpeting and just about any surface it gets on. Learn how to rid your home of this problem once and for all. We've put together a pamphlet called "Mildew Around Your House," and it is full of tips on how to get rid of mildew and how to keep it from coming back. Find it online at

• "Wall Warts" are the assorted chargers we all use for our phones, computers and lots of other gadgets. Well, now you can get rid of a lot of these when you switch your old electrical outlets to the new Power2U AC/USB outlets. These fit right into the same boxes within your walls, but they have USB ports in addition to the standard receptacles. They come in white, black and ivory. These are new, so go to to find out more about them and where they are available.

• It's time to prune, so grab your Fiskars Quantum tools and get busy. This new line from Fiskars features a sleek Scandinavian design, premium European steel blades and all-natural cork hand grips. They are really comfortable to use, and they work exceptionally well. There are several pruners to select from so you can tackle everything from small twigs to large branches. Under the cork grips are aluminum handles, which are lighter in weight to make it easier to hold and work longer. Check them out at your garden center or hardware store. Additional information also is available at

• Write to Al and Kelly Carrell in care of the Daily Herald, P.O. Box 280, Arlington Heights, IL 60006 or visit the Carrells' website at

2012, Cowles Syndicate Inc.

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